House Looking at Moving Its Own Sanctions Bill, Adding North Korea

Measure would replace Senate Iran and Russia sanctions bill that faced blue slip issue

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the House could add North Korea provisions to a Russia and Iran sanctions measure. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced Friday that the House is looking to add North Korea provisions to a Russia and Iran sanctions bill that is stuck in a procedural morass. 

The House passed a standalone North Korea sanctions bill in May on a 419 — 1 vote, but the Senate has yet to take up the measure. Adding North Korea to the Russia and Iran sanctions measure would ensure speedier Senate consideration. 

“I believe Iran, the work Russia has done and what North Korea has done, it would be a very strong statement for all of America to get that sanction bill completed and done and to the president’s desk,” McCarthy said in floor remarks Friday.

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce told reporters earlier Friday that he was working on a bipartisan sanctions measure that could see floor action as soon as next week. He did not specify the contents. 

“We’re talking with the Democratic members about it, trying to put together a bipartisan bill, and we’re moving forward,” the California Republican said. 

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker said in a statement that he’s open to the House adding North Korea sanctions. 

“There is no question that we need to apply more pressure to North Korea,” the Tennessee Republican said. “Chairman Royce and I have discussed the desire of some House members to add North Korea provisions to the Senate’s legislation to sanction Iran and Russia, and we would be more than glad to take a close look at it if this is the path they choose.”

The Senate passed the Iran and Russia sanctions measure last month but the House parliamentarian ruled that late-added language violated the Origination Clause of the Constitution, creating a so-called blue slip issue. 

House leaders worked with their Senate counterparts on language to fix the blue slip problem and the Senate passed the updated bill by unanimous consent. However, the change has yet to be adopted because the bill is in the House and needs to be sent back to the Senate for the latest version to replace the original text.

House Democrats have been objecting to sending the bill back to the Senate by unanimous consent and GOP leaders have been hesitant to call it up for a vote, because blue slip issues have typically been addressed in a bipartisan fashion. 

House Democrats’ objection stems from language in the updated bill that would have removed the ability of a disapproval resolution to be brought up under a privileged motion, removing the ability of the minority to call up a vote. A disapproval resolution would be used by lawmakers to object if President Donald Trump were to ease sanctions on Russia or other countries covered under the measure.

House GOP leaders requested the change on the disapproval resolution procedure because the Senate wrote the bill without consulting them on House procedure, a leadership aide said. 

It’s unclear whether the measure McCarthy and Royce referenced would allow for Democrats to bring up a disapproval resolution on a privileged motion. 

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Friday said she had conveyed to GOP leaders that she didn’t like tweaked language on disapproval resolution because she wanted to protect “the prerogatives of the minority in the House.“ 

“But weighing the equities, what was more important was passing the Russia-Iran sanctions bill,” the California Democrat said. “So, we are on board to just proceed. They didn’t bring it up.”

Joe Williams contributed to this report. 

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